Every so often, these days, it's time to get the grey hairs blitzed. For a few weeks, then, I feel young again: or at least, I look younger, because in my head I still haven't grown up. I think I've stalled somewhere around the end of my twenties... possibly because that's when I made a number of those scary life-changing decisions which tend to define us as proper grown-ups. But with life-changing decisions come responsibility, and worry, and grey hairs and wrinkles and all those other things we all swore would never happen to us. And then it's time for the evasive action: the brushes and the plastic shoulder-shields come out, the hairdresser puts on a serious face and some rubber gloves and gets to work, and suddenly it takes half a morning of small talk and trashy magazines, not just half an hour. It's exhausting.
But is this really it? Middle age, when I was growing up, was a pretty clear thing. It was people's mums and dads... the boring old teachers at school... all those everyday anonymous adults who, as I informed my parents confidently, had been born in the middle ages. I've reached some birthdays which conferred this definition in my childish mind, but am planning to remain in complete denial about it until retirement at least. I refuse to dress my age. So many high street shops have their target customer clearly in mind almost as obviously as the age labels on children's clothes. Top Shop and River Island are not for the likes of me. Next: probably; Oasis: just about, unless I put on lots of weight. Marks & Spencer is funniest of all: Limited Collection for the young fashionista, Autograph for her sensible older sister, Per Una for her rather more robustly built cousin, Indigo for the trendy aunt and Classic for her, well, rather 'classic' mum. Sometimes it's fun to confuse the assistant and buy across the ranges a bit, and imply a kind of style schizophrenia...
And then there's music. Because I'm getting on just ever so slightly, the teenagers of my acquaintance tend to assume I'll listen to awful music... Daniel O'Donnell, perhaps, or Cliff Richard, or the kind of thing you hear on Classic Gold radio. The kind of stuff that was in the charts away back, when dinosaurs roamed and I was young. Okay, granted I don't listen to the extremes- dance music gives me an unpleasant heart arrhythmia, while the intricacies of metal just leave me with a sore head and a feeling of mild disorientation. But what's on my iPod or in my CD collection does intersect with what's listened to by those much younger than myself.
And I could go on. The books we read, the newspapers, the magazines... I don't read The Oldie, yet, but I have graduated from Just 17 (at 14), through 19 (at 17), Cosmopolitan (at university), Glamour (early 20s), to the inevitability of things like Red. You can spot the intended audience by the free gifts on the cover: these days it's things like hand-cream or a sample of an anti-ageing potion. Ahead lie the terrors of Good Housekeeping with its gardening gloves and recipes and knitting patterns. Then I really will be scared. It brings to mind that Jenny Joseph poem about intending to 'wear purple' and behave rebelliously when she becomes 'an old woman'. I already wear purple. I remember being told off in primary school when we had to write the 'favourite colour' poem and I didn't choose red or yellow or blue like everybody else. I picked purple, and got into trouble, because it was hard to rhyme, and associated with miserable things rather than the nice, happy issues of the nice, happy primary colours of the nice, happy world of primary school. Perhaps I was refusing to 'act my age' back then too. Perhaps there's logic behind having had an atypical obsession, at 13 or 14, with listening to the radio with the lights off when everybody in my class was watching Dallas. Perhaps just as we shouldn't let ourselves be defined by our gender or our ethnic origin or our religious beliefs or affiliations, the school we went to or the clothes we wear, we shouldn't for a second accept definition by age.
All the same. This weekend, it was time to get those grey hairs seen to again... to add a bit of gloss and shine and make myself feel better. It's 2012. Almost 2013. I'm older than I could ever imagine being when all my classmates were watching Dallas long ago... and now Dallas is back, and I'm still determined to feel young.
The greys have gone. JR is dead, for real. The plots have changed. The story stays the same...
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